America’s Founding Documents

EACH FOUNDING DOCUMENT is linked below. They are presented in order of occurrence during the revolutionary birth of the United States of America. They are in simplified english so they may be clearly understood and translated into 180 world languages. Original transcriptions can be found online at the US National Archives.

Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is a list of grievances against the King of England, intended to justify separation from British rule. Declared on July 41776, it officially announced the colonies’ separation from Great Britain. By this time, warfare had already begun.

The Revolutionary War is the fountainhead of a philosophical era now referred to as American Enlightenment, which applied scientific reasoning to politics, science, and religion. It derived many of its ideas about democracy from European philosophers’ accounts of American Indian governmental structures, as they were brought back to Europe from the earliest settlers. Concepts of freedom and modern democratic ideals were born in “Native American wigwams”. America saw a consensus on a “pursuit of happiness” based political structure, based in large part on Native sources.

Common Sense

Common Sense is a 47-page pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775-76 advocating independence and rallying Colonists behind a common cause. Occurring during the first years of the Revolutionary War, his ideas reflected Enlightenment-era ideals of transnational human rights.

Common Sense was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places. In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history. As of 2006, it remains the all-time best-selling American title and is still in print today. Download its simple-english translation in hardcover or PDF.

Original US Constitution

After Independence was gained from Britain, Representatives from the Colonies were inspired to create an entirely new form of Government based on the philosophies of Liberalism and Republicanism, both keystones of the American Enlightenment period.

Leading figures of the American Enlightenment include John AdamsJames MadisonThomas PaineGeorge MasonJames WilsonEthan Allen, and Alexander HamiltonBenjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. James Madison is known as “the Father of the Constitution”, since many of his ideas became part of the document’s foundation. George Washington served as president of the convention.

The Constitution was crafted and debated during The Philadelphia Convention, at Independence Hall, from May 25 to September 17, 1787. The Document was signed by its authors on September 17, 1787, then sent to the Colonies to be ratified.

Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights accompanies the Constitution. It was written to address Anti-Federalists objections. States were not inclined to ratify the Constitution without additional safeguards against a corrupt centralized government.

These specific safeguards include: personal freedoms and rights, clear limitations on the government’s power in judicial and other proceedings, and explicit declarations that all powers not specifically granted to the U.S. Congress by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people. The United States Bill of Rights comprises the first ten Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Constitutional Amendments

In 250 years since the Constitution’s adoption, 27 changes have been made to its text. Amendments need to be approved by at least 3/4 of the States, within 7 years of submission. Prior to being sent to the States, an Amendment first needs 2/3 approval by both the House and the Senate.

It is quite difficult to pass an Amendment. More than 11,800 proposals to amend the Constitution have been introduced in Congress since 1789. Collectively, members of the House and Senate typically propose around 200 amendments during each two-year term of Congress. Most die in the Congressional Committee debate process.

Amendments are intended to be changes to the Constitution that improve its structural ability to protect freedom. Amendments are not meant to expand the Federal Government’s power, nor grow with the changing preferences of Society. Those preferences are to be written into each States own living Constitution, not the Federal Constitution.

These are the Founding Documents of the United States of America. And so this Nation was born.

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